The future for personal injury practice set to become clearer today

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By Legal Futures

29 March 2011


Dismore: major denial of justice

Personal injury lawyers will today get a stronger vision of the future of their practices when the Ministry of Justice unveils the way forward on its reform of civil litigation costs.

Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke will make a statement today outlining its response to the green paper consultation. Check back on Legal Futures after 3.30pm.

Radio interviews with Mr Clarke this morning indicated that the government will push ahead with the central and most controversial thrust of Lord Justice Jackson’s reforms – ending the recovery of success fees and after-the-event insurance in conditional fee agreements from the losing side, and capping the success fee at 25% of damages.

The announcement will not be coupled with the outcome of the legal aid green paper, although there will be details of other civil justice reforms. This could well include extension of the road traffic claims process to all fast-track personal injury work.

Speaking ahead of publication, former Labour MP Andrew Dismore, who is co-ordinating the Access to Justice Action Group, said that given the consultation only closed six weeks ago and the government received over 800 responses, “they could not possibly have properly considered all the alternative ideas”.

“The winners will be the insurers and the losers those who have suffered injuries and disabilities through no fault of their own,” said Mr Dismore. “The 20 big insurers, who account for 94.6% of the market will be laughing all the way to the bank. Moreover, insurance premiums are likely to rise, not fall.

“And it is not only accident victims who will lose out. Most small business litigation against big customers or suppliers is funded in this way. Most developing world litigation is also done on ‘no win, no fee’. Human rights and environmental cases for the poorest people in the world against some of the richest multinationals will also be at an end.”

He said this will amount to a major denial of access to justice for at least 50,000 people by the government’s own estimate “but probably a lot more: the Scottish system which the government wishes to move to, pro rata has 25% fewer claimants, denied access to justice as they cannot afford it”.

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